U.Md. investigating illegal contracts between business school, federal agencies

The University of Maryland is investigating a nonprofit within the school that they say procured contracts with three federal agencies in violation of school protocols and state laws.

The school said the actions were taken by a small group of people associated with the Smith School of Business Foundation — a nonprofit that has been affiliated with the university since 1997 — without the knowledge of the university or the board of the foundation.

Under university policy, foundations affiliated with the University of Maryland must clearly identify foundation operations from university operations. The investigation revealed that the foundation had signed several contracts under the name of the university.

The contracts provided for executive instruction and training for people employed by unspecified federal agencies, and it appears those agencies have had no problems with what they’ve received on their end.

The deals were signed by people employed by the business school, but working on behalf of the Smith School of Business’ nonprofit foundation. An audit is being conducted to determine where the money went and where responsibility for those contracts lies.

One of the names said to be on those contracts is Alexander Triantis, the former dean of the business school at Maryland. He is now the dean of Johns Hopkins University’s business school.

A spokeswoman at Johns Hopkins said the school first became aware of the internal investigation on Friday, and was seeking more information.

Under the provisions of at least one contract, the school was unable to even go into which federal agencies were involved, a violation of state law that makes clear that all university contracts are public records.

On more than one occasion the contracts were signed outside the normal process by which federal contracts are procured by the university, to the point school leaders were often unaware that they existed.

As a result, those involved could face legal jeopardy, while the school could lose out on future federal contracts and funding.

In a summary of the internal investigation obtained by WTOP, the school said it had “gathered significant evidence that it was purposefully and repeatedly deceived.

“Because the SSF (Smith School Foundation) misrepresented itself as the University, the federal government was led to believe that the University is the contractor on these awards. The University is statutorily prohibited from agreeing to certain terms in the SSF’s federal contracts.”

The University of Maryland said it has self-reported itself to the federal agencies affected, and a new administrator is now overseeing finances at the Smith School Foundation, which has also seen its contracting activities suspended by the school.

Two people have been fired so far, but the investigation remains ongoing.

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